Sean Combs was asked at the recent South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin who his ideal lunch partner would be. The answer was a clue into his entrepreneurial spirit.
“Steve Jobs,” Combs said. “He’s not here, but I’m quite sure he’s figured out a way for me to have lunch with him.”
Combs’ affection for the late Apple genius makes sense when you look at the breadth of the hip-hop mogul’s empire. Combs started as a record-label intern, and turned that into a successful rapping and producing career. Then came the acting roles, a fashion line and a high-profile vodka endorsement deal. Combs’ latest venture is Revolt TV, a music-video channel.
“What I’m doing, you can do, too,” he told the Austin crowd of aspiring artists. “You just have to work as hard as me, and believe as hard as I believed. And I still believe every day.”
Here are some of Combs’ takes on leadership, technology and the entrepreneurial spirit.
On his leadership evolving: “I’m so in a zone when I go to work. I don’t think I was having enough dialogue with the people that were believing in my dream to come and work with me. So I was like, ‘I want to become a better boss. I want to become a better leader.’ So I started learning about that. One of the things was you should treat people how you would treat yourself. You should understand how they need to be treated. It made me take my time, and ask some of the cats that were coming out of college, ‘What do you want to do?’ Or even out of high school. They were saying, ‘I don’t know. I’m trying to figure it out.’ I would say, ‘That’s one of the most important things. You can make money, but you can’t make time. You have to get in touch with your feelings. You’ve got to be honest with yourself.’”
On traditional marketing and distributing methods in entertainment: “Your time is ticking, unless you embrace and align yourself with the independent movement. Due to technology, people are not going to have to go and do the song and dance. You’re going to be able to make a movie from your home, and you’re going to be able to distribute that movie worldwide. You’re going to be able to make a record out of your garage or your living room, and you’re going to be able to distribute that worldwide. There’s a gift and a curse with everybody having that power, but you have to understand what’s coming. … I’m not interested in owning a major label. I’m not interested in being a distributor anymore. I just want to put the best artists, the best executives, the best creators, the best visionaries — I want to put them in power.”
On what he’s finding in the younger generation as he builds Revolt TV: “This is one of the most intelligent generations we’ve ever had. This is one of the most entrepreneurial generations we’ve ever had. So that has me very passionate about empowering people that are young with their dream, and also learning how to be patient with them. One thing with Revolt, you come into our office and you’ll see every color, every ethnic group. You will see people of all ages, but it will be a majority of people that are young, that are the future. I want the future leaders to be running our company. … We have to listen to people that are actually in the culture, that are living it every second every day. We have to be able to listen to them. We have to be able to empower them and let them make mistakes and then be able to be successful.”
On following artistic and entrepreneurial dreams: “There has to be a day, a starting point, when you put that pressure on yourself. There has to be a starting point when you make that decision — from ‘I’m young and it’s all good and I don’t know what I want to do’ to ‘I know what I want to do because I had an honest conversation with myself, and I’m gonna do what it takes to do it, even though it’s gonna be painful and it’s gonna be scary and it’s gonna hurt.’ … You’ve got to find something that you love to do. Any successful entrepreneur, they’re not doing it for the money. … We’re doing it because we love it, and that’s our dream. So I would say find something you love, and don’t be afraid to do what it takes to get it.”